ZOOM-IN: How Do You Keep Your Loved Ones Close?
Delicate ivory portrait miniatures like these once helped Americans keep their loved ones—quite literally—close to the chest. Hinting at ties that bind, Americans often had themselves painted in miniature with the ones they loved clasped in miniature around their necks. Often exchanged as secret tokens between lovers and courting couples or worn to commemorate the recently deceased, such portraits often seemed to live and breathe alongside their wearers. The velvety texture of the ivory mimicked the look and feel of human skin at the same time that the painted eyes of these portraits seemed to shimmer and cheeks flush with what one writer called the “living light” transmitted through the translucent ivory. The organic material was even able to catch up to human body temperature when worn directly against the skin, making these portraits pretty hot presents when exchanged by secret flames. –Katie Pfohl, Barra Fellow in American Art
"Portrait of Maria Bassett", 1801, James Peale http://ow.ly/meWsV
"Abraham Woodside", 1810, Attributed to John Archibald Woodside http://ow.ly/meWL0